Business card basics

business card basics

Marketing has changed dramatically in the digital age. Novel technologies and tactics abound, from a vast array of social media platforms to webcasts, do-it-yourself video and more. But for all that’s new and different, some classic tools retain their traditional position at the core of your marketing strategy. After all, what good is a fancy website if you don’t have a business card to direct new contacts to it?

Business cards deserve more attention than they get, even in a tech-focused world. These little slips express a lot about you and your firm. They’re small and inexpensive, but they carry a powerful message. So what should you know about business cards?

First, you need them! No professional should go without a supply of attractive business cards that include current contact and job information. It’s not acceptable to just use the ones left over from your previous role, scratching out and updating before you hand it to someone you’ve just met. That won’t come across as practical and eco-friendly – more like unprepared and not serious about what you’re doing now. Better not to share the card at all.

For business cards that do create a positive impression, focus on these simple guidelines:

  • Include the right information. At a minimum, your business card should have your name, firm, role, email address and at least one phone number. A website url is great, and a LinkedIn address or Twitter handle are nice additions too. Including a headshot can make it easier for people you’ve met to remember who you are. If your job title and firm name don’t make it obvious what you do, then try to leave space for a short tagline that clarifies the role you fill or the benefit you bring to clients.
  • But not too much information. A crowded business card looks messy and is less effective than one that’s cleaner and more streamlined. When space is limited, choose what’s most important and save the rest for other collateral. That might mean including only one social media profile and phone number, using an abbreviated title, making a shorter tagline or another method of cutting down on content. Skip the QR code; that fad has come and gone, and your space is too valuable to waste.
  • Make your card stand out. Pay close attention to graphic design and layout, and select fonts that fit your style. Your logo is definitely something to include on your business card. Pick a high-quality cardstock that’s substantial, smooth, glossy, textured, recycled, embossed, or otherwise distinctive. Use attractive colors that match your branding. You want this card to appeal to as many senses as possible!
  • But not stand out too much. Business cards larger than the standard 3.5 x 2 inches are inconvenient for recipients, since they won’t easily fit in a wallet or card case. Those fancy ones made of wood (or another more durable material) are pretty cool, but they aren’t practical. Keep your designs classic and tasteful; overly elaborate or dramatic cards end up feeling cluttered and unprofessional. Choose the foil accents or the fancy border. Opting for both will just make your cards come across as the Kardashians of the business world.

A good business card is a pleasure for the senses and a reminder of your professional value. As you’re crafting a sophisticated marketing strategy to wow the modern world, don’t overlook the key role of old friends like the basic business card. Put careful thought into how this simple item looks, feels and communicates, because it will speak for you long after you’ve left the room.

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Sarah Warlick

Sarah Warlick founded Proof Positive Content to provide professional service firms with high-quality content that resonates with their target audiences. Sarah's writing appears in books, on the websites of over a dozen Top 100 Accounting Firms and in Accounting Today, Forbes and other leading publications, but usually under another name. Ghostwriters rarely get the glory - their clients do!


  1. Lee Gardner on November 21, 2018 at 3:53 pm

    Clear, concise, and clever — a great example of the business card’s aims.

    • Sarah Warlick on November 21, 2018 at 4:40 pm

      Thanks, Lee! I appreciate the comment.